Monday, March 17, 2014

5 Ecommerce Trends that can Make or Break your Business

As the evolution of search engine optimization and social media continues, so too does the ecommerce landscape. While small tweaks and minor changes occur all the time, the ecommerce trends that are in place now are in their early stages and will continue to grow in importance for websites seeking to generate revenues from web-based initiatives. These trends include:

  • Going mobile – While this song by “The Who” dates back to 1971, forty years later mobile internet access is in the process of outpacing PC access. For ecommerce sites, implementing responsive web design architecture that can modify the presentation of information to the size of the screen is now mandatory because, at last count, the total number of differently-sized viewports on mobile devices exceeds 230. This new architecture formats web pages to deliver an optimal interface regardless of screen size.
  • Local businesses that are not limited to serving local customers – Shipping is getting faster and cheaper, which levels the field in terms of gratifying online consumers. Ecommerce sites that can provide solutions and deliver them quickly can now compete anywhere, regardless of geographic location.
  • Prioritizing content that matters – Search engines and social media sites have come a long way in developing algorithms that can define both quality content and spammy publications. While the methodologies of surfacing quality content differ between these platforms, the end result is the same; higher visibility to a broader section of the target market.
  • Guided search/discovery – This process defines items that have a history of being purchased along with products that are put in an ecommerce site’s shopping cart. As opposed to a shotgun approach, the number of recommendations is generally limited to three specific choices that are closely linked to the product being purchased. If you’ve seen Amazon’s “Frequently Bought Together” suggestions, you get the idea.
  • Non-commoditized products – On the consumer side, the commoditization of products enables shopping for the best deal possible. This can be a difficult proposal for ecommerce sites that constantly have to meet the lowest price on the same products. By offering unique and customized merchandize, ecommerce sites can differentiate their offerings from those of the competition and maintain higher profit margins.

Darwinism is alive and well on the web. In this environment, ecommerce sites must continue to adapt to the changing consumer environment on the internet or face a future with bleak prospects.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Black Hat SEO Goes from Link Farms to Click Farms

When Google unveiled its Penguin algorithm update, the rankings of web pages for which thousands of backlinks had been purchased plummeted sharply, essentially stopping the black hat strategy in its tracks. At the time, the practice of buying these links had spawned a cottage industry of companies that sold links for about a penny each to a wide variety of websites that were unwilling to wait for non-manipulative SEO tactics to yield results. The companies that built and sold these links were easy to find, with one of the biggest ironies being that a quick search on Google could provide pages of businesses that were happy to game the algorithm used by the same search engine to rank web pages.

As often happens in SEO the death of one black hat strategy, in this case link farming, fostered the birth and rapid growth of a new way to manipulate search rankings; buying “likes” on Facebook and followers on Twitter. For the companies in the soon to be defunct link farming business, the switch to Facebook and Twitter was easy and provided many of the same opportunities. Much like its emphasis on backlinks several years earlier, Google was shifting a significant number of the components in its ranking algorithm to assess “social signals” such as likes and follows to determine the value and relevance of content, which in turn was playing an increasing role in search rankings.

With that a new industry, which by some estimates grossed over $200 million in 2013 off of Facebook alone, had replaced the old one. In the Facebook version, “click farms” create fake accounts on the network and then fire them up to start generating sought after “likes”. According to the latest estimate from Facebook, the network has approximately 14 million fake accounts, many of which are related to click farm activity.

Like the plethora of companies that offered link farm services, searches pertaining to buying likes/followers will surface numerous options for manipulating the search engine’s ranking algorithm, an issue that flies against the company’s commitment to offering its users the best possible search experience every time. Google has since drastically discounted these types of social signals in terms of their influence on rankings, but an algorithm update that does to click farms what the Penguin update did to link farms is probably inevitable at some time in the near future.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Furniture Dealers: How and Why You Should Get Started on Pinterest

While Pinterest doesn’t have the brand equity of Facebook or Twitter, this site is an ideal fit for independent furniture dealers looking to expand their social media footprint. Pinterest is one of the fastest growing networks in the social media universe, growing from just under 50 million users in February of 2013 to over 70 million in July 2013. As opposed to Facebook’s social leanings and Twitter’s orientation toward news-related events, this growing network is basically built for businesses, with a catalogue-style format that visitors peruse in search of product images, pricing, and to learn where items can be purchased. In fact, Pinterest is considered to be on the leading edge of the next wave in social media; social shopping.

Here are three easy steps any furniture dealer can take now to get started:

1) Set up a business account – A basic account will likely suffice but building a business page will separate your offerings from individual sellers and hobbyists by displaying a professional interface that can be tailored to work with the style of your business’ website.
2) Allow “pinning” on your website – Image centric, furniture-based websites are ideal for “pinning”, which is basically a sharing utility that embeds pictures from your website on the boards of Pinterest users. Each image that is pinned to a Pinterest board will have a link back to your website.
3) Start building your Pinterest following – The fastest way to build an audience on any network, including Pinterest, is to actively engage with other community members. These engagements can be in the form of comments, pins, and sharing on other social media networks.
Pinterest may not get talked about as much as some of the other massive social networks, but for independent furniture dealers it could be the most profitable social media site. Additionally, the site’s focus on shopping makes for a more direct path to sales, as opposed to navigating the social protocols of the larger networks.

Friday, October 4, 2013

CRM for Electronics Dealers: 3 Benefits of an Optimized CRM System

Many electronics dealers, when strategizing on growing their revenues, will focus almost entirely on bringing new people into the store while spending little time and effort in the retention of their existing customer base. This concentration of resources on client acquisition, according to a variety of studies and statistics, ignores the value of the customers who have already made purchases from the store as well as the benefits of retaining them as repeat customers via the implementation of an optimized customer relationship management (CRM) system. These benefits include:
  • A holistic view of each customer’s interactions with the business – Having a system that aggregates information on each customer can reveal product and brand preferences, which can provide opportunities to communicate with customers in a more specific manner. For example, a customer who has a history of upgrading TVs offered by a specific brand can be advised of the next upgrade and when it will be available in the store.
  • More efficient marketing – A CRM system can be used to develop sub-categories of customers with similar purchasing histories, thus allowing the business to market specific products to groups who have already demonstrated an affinity for them. This is a far more efficient practice than marketing to untargeted groups where individuals have already signaled their preference for different brands or are unfamiliar with the products in the campaign.
  • The building of a loyal customer base – Customers who receive communications that are tailored to their interests, rather than generic advertisements, will develop a perception that the business “gets” them, and will hold that business in higher regard than one that is focused on just selling them something.
An optimized customer relationship management system can deliver a variety of benefits for electronic dealers with perhaps the most important one being the opportunity to know what their customers want. This knowledge can then lead to efficient marketing campaigns, higher conversion ratios, and brand building.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Is Facebook’s Move Toward Hashtags Good for Businesses?

If you're already using Twitter, Instagram, Google+, or Tumblr, hashtags are just part of navigating from one public topic to another. Facebook, which has made a mantra of its mission to bring offline friendships to the web, with official “friending” requiring approval from both sides of the relationship, has now announced that it too will incorporate hashtags in a move that can change a discussion previously limited to friends on the network to one that invites the public to join in as well.

For individuals, the move to conversations linked to hashtags brings the potential intimidation of engaging in conversation with a more public and potentially less friendly audience. For businesses, on the other hand, the potential for public participation in searchable hashtags can expand the reach of published posts from friends/fans/etc. to a public audience that is exponentially larger.

The objectives behind the move to hashtags are two-fold; to move into Twitter’s turf as a resource for unfolding news events and to build a footprint in the “interest network” space occupied by the likes of Pinterest, Instagram, Thumb, Tumblr, etc. In both of these types of networks, organization and functionality is centered on a topic or interest as opposed to a network of friends, as is currently the case on Facebook. Facebook will incorporate the new hashtag tool in the search bar, which will enable the viewing of and participation in posts on Facebook and other social networks where the same hashtags are active.

While not the primary driver of the move to hashtags, businesses on Facebook will derive numerous benefits from the move by expanding their reach and growing their audience by incorporating their high value keywords into Facebook’s hashtag system.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Habitual Search Engine Optimization

A common misunderstanding regarding search engine optimization is that doing it once is going to suffice and high page rankings will automatically follow. The reality is that SEO is an ongoing process that requires constant testing, man-hours, and analysis in order to provide the best results possible. The countless moving parts of SEO also require monitoring due to the changes in the search engine landscape and how they might apply to both you and your competition.

This is habitual search engine optimization and it requires constant attention to provide consistently superior results. The margin of keyword battles that have been won consistently and decisively may narrow. New search engines like Microsoft’s “Bing” get introduced. You add a new and unique product that can’t be optimized with the keywords you’re using currently.

* Analysis – Analysis of keywords and phrases is the foundation of successful search engine optimization. Focusing time and money on winnable searches versus highly competitive ones will prove to be more cost effective and result in a much higher return on investment. High rankings on search engine results pages from going after less competitive keywords will also occur much faster.
* Research – It’s imperative to stay current with what is working in search engine optimization. Knowing how Bing is different from Google for instance, can give you an advantage over competitors and access to new visitors. Another dynamic area is social media. Knowing how and where to maximize your optimization efforts can be the difference between success and failure. Only by doing some advance research will you be able to tell which platform will deliver optimal results as the difference in user demographics varies widely between MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter.
* Tweaking - Google provides a ton of free data. They have tools available that will tell you what keywords you are ranking for, which keywords are driving traffic to your site and which ones aren’t, which pages have been indexed, where inbound links are coming from, and where the problems are on your site. Watching for shifts in keyword tendencies, making adjustments, and making sure your site is maintained can make a huge difference in driving both new and repeat traffic to your site.
* Testing – Test everything you do in your search engine optimization efforts. What was working at one point may not always work but you won’t know it unless you’re constantly testing results. Trends may go the other way as well, where terms that haven’t tested well previously start yielding traffic and conversions as a result of higher visibility and branding efforts. Testing to see where visitors are bouncing off of the site can provide intelligence on weak areas of the site and determine where fixes are needed to make the site stickier. Additionally, testing allows the website owner to know what’s working and to concentrate resources on those areas.

Search engine optimization requires constant attention to provide consistently superior results. Only by making SEO a habitual practice can a website owner maximize efforts, resources, and outcomes to keep traffic and conversions growing quarter to quarter. In many cases, the work required for habitual SEO can be too prohibitive to be done properly in-house. The Gervais Group specializes in all the areas of habitual search engine optimization, generating superior results on a consistent basis. Call us today at 770-529-2262 or visit Gervais Group at

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Beyond Written Content

Keeping up with innovations in the alternatives to written content could be considered a full time job as website visits evolve from simple information gathering missions to full blown multimedia experiences. While the options have expanded dramatically, the ultimate purpose of any form of optimized content is to bring the visitor to the site and then keep the visitor interested while they move through the conversion process. That process may allow for one or multiple visits prior to the purchase of goods and/or services. Either way, the content must both engage the visitor and play a role in the conversion process. Going beyond written content can include any of the following:
* Videos
* RSS Feeds
* Webinars
* Live Chat
* Interactive Features
* Flash (Now that Google/Adobe are working to make it readable by crawlers)
Standing out from the competition has become much tougher as more businesses come online each day. Many of these businesses have a good grasp of what is entailed in winning keyword searches and driving traffic to their sites. If that knowledge base isn’t available in-house, or if there aren’t enough resources to execute a strategy successfully it can be outsourced to experienced web design and search engine optimization agencies.
Often the difference between businesses that succeed or fail on the web is their commitment to the execution of their strategy. A clear strategy, with measurable results and defined benchmarks is a great start toward running a successful operation on the internet. Any strategy will fall down when shortcuts start getting taken, distractions pull the plan off course, or patience is lost while the strategy is in its early stages.
With increasingly high expectations from visitors and an intensifying competitive landscape, websites require more attention, testing, and analysis to see that they are providing optimal results. It is at the web pages themselves where conversions occur and information is collected for future marketing efforts. Ultimately, those pages and content placed on them will determine the level of success of any online business.    
To determine what types of content will work best on your website; call The Gervais Group at 800-381-9358 

Call us today at 800-381-9358 or visit Gervais Group at